Bats are the most significant predators of night-flying insects. There are at least 40 different kinds of bats in the U.S. that eat nothing but insects. A single little brown bat, which has a body no bigger than an adult human’s thumb, can eat 4 to 8 grams (the weight of about a grape or two) of insects each night. Although this may not sound like much, it adds up—the loss of the one million bats in the Northeast has probably resulted in between 660 and 1320 metric tons of insects no longer being eaten each year by bats.
Bats locate each insect by echolocation, then they trap it with their wing or tail membranes and reach down to take the insect into their mouth. This action, as well as the chase, results in the erratic flight most people are familiar with when they observe bats feeding in the late evening or around lights at night.
Other species of bats eat many different things, including fruit, nectar, and pollen. Bats are important pollinators as they fly from plant to plant in search of food. In the southwestern deserts of North America, bats are the key pollinators of saguaro and organ pipe cactus. Tequila is made from the agave plant, which is pollinated by bats.
Learn more: North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)